Smart meter deployment in EU: who is leading and who is trailing
Smart meters are essential to the digitalisation of the utilities sector. As well as giving households and commercial consumers more control of their power usage, they’re helping to shape energy infrastructures and lay the foundations for new business models.
Early studies reported by the European Commission found that smart meters could help households could reduce their electricity bills by an average of 12% annually, with commercial consumers reducing consumption by as much as 58%.
Back in 2014, the Commission issued a document outlining the need for smart meters to be rolled out across EU member states. It proposed that each country should install electricity smart meters across all homes and achieve 80% coverage by 2020. Although not legally-binding, the target was set to be an aspirational benchmark.
As of 2021, several EU countries have surpassed their requirements and progressed on to a second phase of upgrades. On the other hand, some countries are trailing behind with some having abandoned the commitment altogether.
Let’s take a closer look at how much progress has been made one year after the target date:
The market leaders
One of the leading EU countries for smart meter deployment is Spain. They were the first to reach 100% installation in 2018 following a government mandate. Global energy network Engerati reports that the cost to the customer was one of the most efficient in Europe, at 40% less than the EU average. For commercial consumers, smart meter rollout in Spain is ongoing, with around 40% coverage as of 2019.
Sweden has also reached 100% coverage with the early deployment of automated ‘smart’ meters beginning as far back as 2003. Although these meters didn’t adhere to the same functionality regulations that were introduced in 2014, their rollout happened at a rapid pace. Power company, Vattenfall, began installing 860,000 smart meters in Swedish homes in order to provide customers with monthly readings. By June 2008, every home had a first-generation smart meter installed.
In recent years, Sweden has taken to replacing old smart meters with modern ones, through a partnership between Goteborg Energi and Kamstrup. The rollout will see 275,000 smart meters replaced by the end of 2024, in line with new legislation introduced by the Swedish government.
Finnish households have received their electricity bills based on actual readings since 2014, thanks to hourly energy data. When the European Commission’s target was introduced, the country began upgrading its 3.7 million meters with smart technology.
Finland achieved 100% rollout of its target and is now preparing for a second rollout for an even more advanced energy system, where consumption data will be reported every 15 minutes and centralised in a data hub. Today, over 40 million metering values are collected in Finland, from 1.5 million smart devices.
By 2016, Estonia had already met half its target. The following year, it achieved a 98% rollout, surpassing the 80% target. Swedish technology company Ericsson replaced 625,000 electricity meters within 4 years. Under an eight-year deal, Ericsson was responsible for supplying automatic meter readings, gathering data, and integrating it into Estonia’s energy system.
As of 2019, Denmark had achieved nearly 80% coverage. The Radius-Kamstrup cooperation installed 1 million remotely-read electricity meters, meeting all safety standards and delivering within budget. The Danish energy company initially planned to install 1,500 meters every day, but managed to achieve an impressive 2,500.
The EU member states that are trailing
Despite the many deployment success stories, some EU countries are still behind target in 2021. According to the European Commission’s review in 2017, on average, only 37% of EU consumers were equipped with smart electricity meters, three years after the target was proposed.
Approving complex rollouts like those suggested by the European Commission takes time. The various European parliaments need to validate the suggestions and vote in favour, with some countries inevitably voting against.
Germany, for example, decided against a national smart meter rollout. The Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia provisionally halted a rollout due to an action being brought by a company in Aachen. The reason being that legal requirements would likely not be met. Other countries that decided against a rollout, include the Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, and Cyprus.
Although France began a trial rollout of its Linky smart meters in 2010, and again between 2013 and 2015, the official launch of the country’s nationwide rollout began in 2018. French grid manager Electricité Réseau Distribution France (ERDF) is currently overseeing the deployment of 28 million meters until 2021. The rollout is costing a total of €4.5 billion and is estimated to save households an average of €50 per year. Despite the interruptions caused by COVID-19, a report from December 2020 confirms that France is still on track to reach its 80% rollout target by the end of 2021.
Although late to the party, Ireland began its €1.1 billion smart meter rollout in 2019. By the end of 2020, the Electricity Supply Board installed 250,000 smart meters in homes and businesses. The initial phase focused on supplying customers who requested new smart meters. The current second phase prioritises replacing 500,000 old meters from 2021 onwards. By 2024, assuming there are no delays, every house in Ireland should have a smart meter installed.
Portugal was also a late starter to the rollout, with installations beginning in 2019. Despite the late start, EDP Distribuição S.A., the Portuguese Distribution System Operator, has been installing 10 thousand smart meters per week. By 2025, the country will have reached full coverage with 2.5 million smart meters installed, costing around €230 million.
In early 2021, the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced that it would lend Belgian network Operator Fluvius, up to €425 million to support the rollout of smart meters in Flanders. A first installment of €200 million has been approved to install meters in 300 cities and municipalities and to connect new users to the network. Belgium aims to reach its 80% target by 2024.
Lithuania had previously planned to roll out its €1.2 million smart meter installation project in 2021, with the aim of reaching its target by 2023. However, the rollout has been rescheduled to 2022 to allow for the installation of a cybersecurity infrastructure. Energy company Ignitis, aims to complete the project by 2025 and have 80% penetration by 2023. The cybersecurity infrastructure also complies with the European Commission’s recommendations of considering national security interests.
The next steps for smart metering in the EU
Rolling out smart meters on a nationwide level is an ambitious and complex operation. Effective communication strategies are needed to help consumers understand their rights and how they’ll benefit from smart technology. Regulatory measures are needed, as are stakeholder incentives to ensure smart metering products and services are developed quickly. Data privacy and cyber security frameworks also need to be evaluated to ensure compliance with legal obligations.
Those countries that managed to achieve their 80% coverage target early, for the most part, already had an efficient energy infrastructure in place. Despite many countries still trailing behind the target, most are working towards achieving full coverage within the next few years, which is still hugely positive.
Since 2014, the European Commission has been reporting on rollout progress and adapting its policy and regulatory framework continuously, based on lessons learned throughout the process. In 2020, it published its most recent benchmarking report, where it proposed a strategic long-term vision for Europe to become the world’s first major economy to go climate neutral by 2050. Its vision is to move Europe away from its current centralised, fossil-fuel-based energy system.
How triPica can enable digital transformation for utility companies
At triPica, we enable utility companies to deliver a fully digital customer experience to their users and regain agility. For many energy suppliers, the European Commission’s smart meter target provided the opportunity to consider their digital infrastructure. With triPica, companies can manage their whole supplier lifecycle using digital technology, while retaining complete focus on the customer.
We provide high-volume data storage for smart meters and real-time consumption recommendations. Our ERP platform enables suppliers to adjust monthly payments with usage graphs, and raise bill alerts to anticipate any unexpected high consumption.
Smartphones have transformed the way people access information, and with triPica, customers benefit from being able to access all their energy usage and billing information from a single app.
Find out more about how triPica can help reinvent your model with our ERP platform technology.
triPica, a rewarded innovation leader, enables our service providers worldwide in the Telco and the Utility industries to launch their digital strategy with the agility of a startup. Benefiting from our digital and secure SaaS BSS solution - from self-care online subscription to product and customer management - the customers are able to give autonomy and transparency to their users that the market today demands. triPica was established in 2016 and today serves customers globally in the Telecom and the Utility industries.